“I find in general people have very little understanding of who they are; one has to turn a blind eye to so much of oneself in order to get through life.”
-The Crown, Season 1.
I love that quote.
It so beautifully sums up how unique and tough it is to really get to know yourself. Self-discovery is not for the faint of heart, as I’ve found out personally and professionally.
Getting to know myself has not been fun at all. In fact there are days where I might tell you to skip the whole process altogether and just slide on through life.
But I’m in a good mood today so let’s carry on.
It helps to think about my clients and their journeys instead of concentrating on myself. I am too “in it’ to really see what all I’ve accomplished in my on journey, so I turn to theirs. Well – specifically – to one particular client. One who has triumphantly fought her way through the difficult task of truly getting to know herself.
But she wasn’t always so full of spirit. Back when I first met her, she was full of resistance. She had an idea of what her life looked like, and better yet – what it was supposed to look like – and she wasn’t ready to abandon it. I didn’t blame her.
Staring yourself dead straight in the eye leaves little room for sugar-coating. Most people prefer to look away.
But she kept at it. She sat with herself and cried with herself and laughed with herself and accepted herself. And when she got to the other side, her life barely looked the same. She’s happier now, yes. But it came at a cost, as every self-discovery journey does. This isn’t to scare you away from the challenge, however. It’s meant to inspire you.
We learned a lot together, and I’d like to share with you the gems worth sharing.
1. Your Boundaries Improve
Boundary-strengthening is probably the first thing you’re probably going to realize whenever you truly get to know yourself. Pre-journey, you might have had loose boundaries. Or hell, nonexistent boundaries. You weren’t sure who you were or what you stood for, so you let everyone get away with anything. People would take advantage. Not apologize. Waste your time. Not offer support. Have unrealistic expectations. Let you down. And betray your trust.
But you didn’t have strong enough boundaries to give real consequences. You let people walk in and out of your life in whatever manner they pleased.
But not anymore.
Now that you know your worth and you know what you stand for – there are certain expectations you live by. If people don’t meet those expectations – then you say something. It’s that simple. You have finally established guidelines in which to live your life, and some of those guidelines include NOT SETTING YOURSELF ON FIRE TO KEEP OTHERS WARM.
Boundaries are now your lifeline for a happy existence. I’m so happy for you!
2. Your People-Pleasing Tendencies Ease
Once you get to really know who you are, you simply don’t have the bandwidth to focus on what it is that others expect from you. Or frankly, what they want themselves. Because as you’ve learned, figuring out who you are takes a lot of work that only you and perhaps another savvy professional can do together. No matter how much you love your support system, they did not do the work for you.
So you can’t do the work for them, either.
And now, thanks to your new mindset, you have the freedom and flexibility to really chase after the life that you deem most authentic. But – the second you start to wonder if you’ll have the approval or the blessing from others in your life is the second that authenticity goes out the window. It’s no longer your life – it’s their life that you’re consumed with. People-pleasing simply cannot be a high priority anymore if you’re going to live an authentic life.
Being unapologetically yourself also has some bonus points that come in the form of supportive friends.
It’s really incredible. You see, what happens is you decide that you no longer give a hoot about what others think about you. You don’t cave to their opinions or mold yourself to fit their perception of you. You just L-I-V-E. The ones who can’t take the new self-assured you tend to back off. They don’t like how “out there” you’ve become or your new “aggressive” way of life. Or maybe they just don’t feel “important” to you like they used to.
*eye roll* – (see below)
So they leave. And the ones who have a backbone and probably ALSO did the self-discovering journey themselves stay. SO now you’ve Charles-Darwined your friend group and bam – you’ve got yourself quite the supportive network that will cheer you on your way to self-super-stardom.
It’s a beautiful thing. But not all of it is so beautiful. Let’s carry on.
3. Some Relationships End
As I just went over, if you’re doing this self-discovery journey right, then you are going to lose some relationships. It’s inevitable.
Don’t be afraid – it’s not for the ONLY reasons you might think. It’s not like you are going to fight tooth and nail to finally start living an authentic life, only to be met with your entire network of people who no longer love you. That is rarely the case – although yes, be prepared for a little bit of that, depending on how shitty your social circle is (see above!).
Instead, what typically happens is you outgrow certain people when you outgrow certain habits.
Once you realize that gossiping about others or lamenting about your current situation or over-drinking on a Tuesday night doesn’t solve your problems, you probably cut it out. And if the only time you hung out with a certain friend was with five bottles of Pinot Grigio and a boat load of shit talking, then yeah, you probably won’t see them again.
It’s not like you wanted to cut them out of your life, but if the commonality between the two of you leaves (negativity), then what is there to bond over?
Furthermore, when you start thinking for yourself, others don’t react as well as you might like.
People LOOOOOOOOVE feeling validated. It feels very warm and fuzzy. But no matter how much we’re all addicted to it, it’s still not anyone’s job to validate anyone’s opinions 24/7. It doesn’t leave room for anyone to have their own separate individual thoughts.
Getting to know yourself involves getting to know your own unique thoughts exceptionally well. And, it also involves sharing them.
So get ready to receive some major pushback from people who become unhinged when opinions don’t fall in line with their own. You are in store for some prett-ay awkward interactions and even some toxic arguments. And guess what? Now that you are comfy cozy with yourself and understand that you have value and worth and confidence – you don’t need those people anymore.
4. You Learn More About Your Values
Ok, back to the good stuff!
Part of getting to know yourself thoroughly involves getting familiar with your values. What’s important to you? What’s not? What feels morally wrong to you? What do you look for in other people? What traits do you admire? What’s your favorite thing about yourself? What’s your least favorite?
Identifying your values seems easy on paper – but as my client and I can tell you – it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. A lot of us have what I like to call “idyllic values” – values that sound good on paper but don’t actually translate well in our lives.
Let’s use an example…
Creativity vs. Stability.
Blush works with A LOT of clients on career. We do all things side hustle, raises, promotions, job search, starting over – you name it. So we’ve really seen it all. And on a consistent basis, I see this interesting dichotomy between stability and creativity. Clients come in and say they value creativity more than anything and are BOUND and determined to have a creative career, but they’re actually happier when they have a consistent 9-5 job with a healthy paycheck and enough time to paint on the weekends.
Adversely, a lot of clients claim to value stability to the upmost amount. They want the steady career, relationship, paycheck, and lifestyle. Easy breezy. But then they can’t figure out why they feel so empty all the time or why something isn’t clicking. And then – BOOM! – it hits them – creativity is somehow higher on their values priority list than stability. So they chase a creative pursuit, whether that’s traveling or entrepreneurship or something else – and it all falls into place.
As you can see, things change fast whenever values are identified. And that’s when you’re JUST getting started.
5. Your Goals Change
It’s only natural that when your values come to light, your goals follow suit.
And it might turn out that you’ve been chasing the “wrong” dreams this entire time. Eeek.
I found out I was introverted at the age of 23. I was in my last year of graduate school to become a therapist, which ironically is a position that requires extraverted communication 53875783978294825% OF THE TIME. I panicked just a wee bit, because finally something became really clear. I was actually terrified to provide therapy to others.
This idea of using a dead white man’s theory to help a 24 year old gay male (my first client! I still love him!) navigate his way in the heart of Texas was not clicking for me. Which makes sense, because that’s actually a very extroverted quality, and the last thing this dude needed was more judgment from old white males. But I had just spent two years of my life studying this field along with thousands of dollars of loans out in my name. I was staying, dammit.
But figuring out I was introverted changed the game for me. I quit trying to fit into the mold of “typical counselor” and found out I was good at something else. I could easily zone in on one person and draw examples from my own life and the lives of my close network in order to draw a bridge between us. I was really good at using examples from books I had read or popular movies so others could feel validated and at ease. And, I discovered not too long after graduating, I really liked writing. The most INTROVERTED THING IN THE WORLD.
My goals completely changed. As you can see, I am not the typical brick-and-mortar private practice counselor who works at a bustling agency by day and sees clients at night. I work from home and I never actually meet my clients in person because everything is done via technology. I have managed to create the most introverted counseling type situation known to mankind. And of course, I write in order to promote it.
Kind of funny.
So I cannot emphasize getting to know yourself enough. Once you make that switch, your goals will transform in front of you, and you’ll end up somewhere completely different than you originally thought!
6. Your Confidence Sky Rockets
You are going to start to surprise yourself. In fact, you are going to become “that girl” you always admired but never had the guts to be.
You’ll start wearing what you think is cute instead of what you think is professional. You’ll go to movies or dinners or on vacations by YOURSELF because you don’t need the guise of somebody else in order to justify you being there. You’ll take yourself out of the rat race everyone else is still chasing and find a more innovative way to rise to your full potential. You’ll stop looking over your shoulder in order to get a sense of how you “measure up” in the real world. And most importantly, your new moral compass will be completely guided by your own inner conscience.
And overall, you’ll just be happier. The weight of expectations and shoulds and ifs will fly out the window and all you’ll be left with is opportunity. What could be’s. What will be’s. The stray jacket of society won’t be pulling on your every limb. And you’ll be free to chase what you want without any apologies.
7. You Defend, Explain, and Apologize Less
One of the coolest lessons my client learned during her self-discovery mission is that her choices were worthy simply because they existed.
Looking back on her previous life, it was scary to note how much of her time was spent on apologizing, explaining, or defending her decisions/opinions/you name it. No matter what she did, she felt like she owed it to others the context of how she arrived at a conclusion and why. She couldn’t just let her decisions speak for themselves – everything had to come with a footnote.
And this was even with people that didn’t ask for one. This was with the people who loved her and her choices for what they were. At this point, her explaining was a habit that she simply could not shake.
That is, until she got to know herself.
Once she HERSELF understood why she was making choices and what guided her through the obstacle course of decision making, she no longer felt like she needed to give any justification. It was nobody else’s business. She had done enough of the footwork to know that whatever choice she made was the right one for her, so what was the point in explaining it to somebody else if she already knew it was tailor-made?
It was a waste of breath. And the only result she ended up with after her explaining was over, was lingering self-doubt.
And we simply don’t have room for that.
8. You Make More Time for You
We also learned that this self-discovery journey is never-ending. But I bet you already knew that.
Your relationship with yourself is a permanent one.
There’s no escaping it, no matter how disappointed, angry, embarrassed, or frustrated you feel. We’ve all been there before. And we’ve all learned that there’s no “time out” from being you. Which means instead of fighting it, we have to embrace it.
Once you learn all of your little quirks and your strong values and your required boundaries, you’ll learn just how powerful taking time for yourself actually is. The world is noisy. There are a lot of opinions and opportunities and judgments out there. Which makes it even more necessary to camp out by yourself and create some quiet for your own voice to shine through. Society won’t make room for you – that’s your job to carve out space for yourself.
So if you’re on this journey already and feel like you’re starting to slip, take a few steps back. Regroup. Journal your feelings out or take a values inventory. Revisit the Myers Briggs (my personal favorite!) or take some other personality tests. Talk to someone who is a great mirror or knows how to extract all the goodies out of you. Do something to job your familiarity with who you are and what you want. Take some space from what’s ailing you and get your confidence flowing again. And do this OFTEN.
I still talk to my client once a week, even though she’s passed over into maintenance mode. In fact, she even took a small hiatus from coaching. Not because she didn’t value it, but because she felt like she had it under control. However after a few weeks went by – she started slipping back into old habits.
And it’s not because she’s lazy or weak or thought the work was over.
It’s because this journey is hard to walk alone.
You will always need to circle back to yourself. So find what works for you, and stick with it always.
If you liked this article and think you’d like to get to know yourself better, it might be time to work with a coach. You can read more about what we offer here, our coaches here, and a little bit about us here.
Hopefully we’ll see you on the other side. xx